Holly Wain and Hannah Hickman - paid internships in the Cadbury Research Library (CRL) at the University of Birmingham

Over four weeks, they worked on a WWI exhibition project based around YMCA photographs. They created a theme for the exhibition and drew on other archive and rare book material to enhance their project. They were also assigned individual cataloguing tasks which gave them an insight into the work of an archivist.

Holly: I have just completed my degree in History of Art and French. I have always been interested by heritage and restoration and making history accessible to all, which is why this role appealed to me. I wanted to know more about what being an archivist actually meant.

Hannah: I am in my second year of a part-time Masters course. I wanted to gain experience with rare books and archives before starting a traineeship in September.

Holly: My experience at the CRL has been brilliant. We have been able to see different people’s roles and learn how everything is managed. I have learnt how to put together an exhibition, how to select material and how important it is to consider your audience. I have developed my Photoshop and cataloguing skills and over the month, I have learnt what types of roles I am best suited to.

Hannah: It has been great to work collaboratively as well as independently. The team have been so welcoming and we have seen how varied the work of an archivist can be.

Holly: This opportunity has given me a clearer idea of what I want to do in the future. Don’t be put off from applying for intimidating roles – remember, you aren’t expected to be a specialist straight away, you can always learn new skills on the job. It is more important to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm.

Don’t be put off by rejections and don’t feel limited by your degree. 

Hannah: I would recommend getting as much work experience as possible as it is so important in this sector. Even if you don’t think the work is relevant, you will always be developing transferable skills which are so important.

The Cadbury Research Library, based in the Muirhead Tower, is the home for Special Collections and Archives of the University of Birmingham. The library consists of approximately 200,000 pre-1850 books dating from 1471 and some 4 million archive manuscripts.

The CRL welcomes staff and students of the University as well as members of the public. For more information and opening times, please visit: www.birmingham.ac.uk/crl